The 2019 Colorado Avalanche off-season has been among the most active so far. They have acquired four forwards with NHL experience either via free agency or trade to supplement an increasingly talented team. However, there are still some remaining moves they could make. The team has just over $23 million left for contact extensions or other moves.
Colorado Avalanche Off-Season
Possible Free Agent Forwards
The Avs could seek one more scoring option for 2019-20 despite adding four new forwards. The top remaining forward based on points scored is Ryan Dzingel. His age (27) fits right into the current Colorado scheme along with his 24 games of postseason experience.
The former seventh-round pick from the 2011 NHL Draft has had a very successful career given that selection. The 6’0″ forward has scored 138 points in 268 games between the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets. That total is good enough to rank 22nd among all draft picks from that year. He is coming off his best season yet with 56 points in 78 games, but fell off late. Dzingel registered only two points between the regular season and playoffs after April 2. Despite that drop, he has proven he can be productive and should command a relatively decent deal. The big obstacle with this deal is how much money Dzingel might want while the team locks down star Mikko Rantanen and their other unrestricted free agents.
Possible Free Agent Defenders
Yes, Colorado has a congested group of blue line options, but at least one won’t be ready to go opening night. Also several are unproven rookies or unexciting healthy scratch options. A veteran would help stabilize some unknowns and give youngsters time to grow into roles. There’s also the matter that that the defence corps is very heavy on left-handed shots; only Erik Johnson and Cale Makar are righties based on CapFriendly’s current projected depth chart.
Jake Gardiner is easily the most talented defender remaining in the free agent pool. The 28-year-old is coming off a season where he scored 30 points in 62 games. Intermittent back trouble is the biggest reason why Gardiner’s production fell from 52 points in 2017-18. If healthy, the career Toronto Maple Leaf is worth a substantial contract. He is a left-handed shot, but would provide a veteran presence capable of major power play time in place of the recently traded Tyson Barrie. If the team isn’t concerned about handedness, they could also look at a sleeper option like Ben Hutton.
The most interesting right-handed shot remaining is Chris Wideman. He scored just seven points in 25 games with three awful teams in 2018-19. However, he is a right-handed shot, he’s 29-years-old, and had a previous cap hit of only $1 million. His career has taken a major hit with the recent season, but he could be an improvement to the third defensive pair compared to the often-scratched Mark Barberio. It’s unlikely Wideman actually signs a deal with Colorado, but Joe Sakic could get creative to shore up a perceived handedness gap.
Interesting Trades To Consider
Right now the team’s bottom-six projects to include new players like Joonas Donskoi and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The team has definitely shored up some of their secondary scoring, but they could trade for a restricted free agent that wouldn’t cost much money to push their ceiling a little higher.
It has been reported that Oilers’ Jesse Puljujarvi is very unhappy with his time in Edmonton and would like a trade. It’s safe to call the former 4th overall pick a bust with only 37 points in 139 games. However, surrounding the Scandinavian with a more talented Colorado team would unlock his potential. The Avalanche farm system is increasingly deep and could provide what Edmonton wants in a return.
In a similar move, Colorado could work out a deal with the cash-strapped Vegas Golden Knights for Nikita Gusev. The Russian native was one of the most productive KHL players in 2018-19, scoring 101 points in 80 games between the regular and postseasons for SKA St. Petersburg, before joining the Vegas playoff roster without seeing the ice. Vegas’ problem is they are roughly $3.5 million over the cap. They could seek to move Gusev or others in exchange for salary relief. Gusev and Puljujarvi are both right-handed shots that will diversify the offense.
Colorado could target several other restricted free agents via trade or offer sheet. St. Louis Blues forward Ivan Barbashev, in particular, is a productive option that could get lost in the effort to sign the team’s other free agents. Keep an eye on the Avalanche as they continue to improve the roster this summer.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 05: Ryan Dzingel #19 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on April 05, 2019 in New York City. The Blue Jackets defeated the Rangers 3-2 in the shoot-out to gain a playoff position. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)